We've been playing outdoor roller hockey almost every week for the past 15+ years. There are a ton of places to play for free and with the right group it can be a ton of fun.
It isn't easy to break into a group if you are new in town or just getting into hockey; so, I thought I'd try to lay out a few things that may help you build your own community.
We can't all start with 30 players and 5 goalies willing to play any day, but you may be surprised by how quickly you can get from a solo skater to a real game!
Simply put, here are a few things you need to grow an outdoor roller community:
- -A Leader (you!)
- -Snacks (optional, recommended)
- -Ensure your group is visible (people can find you if they look)
- -Secure contact information and message the players and goalies to get them out
- -Show up on time on game day.
- -Bring balls and pucks (the RIGHT ones)
- -Agree upon and enforce rules
What do we do:
We play at an outdoor rink once or twice a week (whenever we have 10 skaters and 2 goalies). We play 5 on 5 with a ball. We use a text message list and a website to track sign ups.
You need a 'Facility':
This can be any patch of flat paved ground. Parking lots, tennis or basketball courts. Of course it's ideal to have proper boards, a smooth surface, a roof, lights and full nets, but make do with what you have. The game is fun almost any way you play it.
We're lucky to have a handful of lacrosse boxes in and around Vancouver that are awesome when the city has provided hockey nets to use in them.
I think this can be a huge attraction for players. If you can find people who love playing in net, you will have little trouble attracting more players. We also have a bag of goalie gear, so if one of our usual goalies can't make it, one of the players will save the day and suit up for the day.
Thank you @TonyHockey09 for the photo
While it's true playing with a goalie is a lot of fun, playing posts, shooting at targets or a shooter tutor is still a great workout. Ice hockey players that grew up playing on the pond often shot through a pair of winter boots spread about a meter apart. A group that can play without goalies and still have a good time is stronger than one that only plays with them.
I'd still rather skate than not skate at all!
Puck or Ball? For outdoor roller, the less protective equipment I have to wear, the better.
We believe the right ball (correct hardness for the temperature and liquid-filled) is best for this because you can shoot it pretty hard without people getting badly hurt.
A lot of players like to use pucks or Green Biscuits. If you have a smooth enough court they are awesome. The trouble is when it gets deflected up and hits someone in the teeth or the eye, you're gonna have a bad day. Less concerning when you play with mini-nets and people keep the shots low.
Shin Pads - Personal preference. Recommended. Taking a stick swing to the shin hurts and is common when protecting the puck. A lot of players wear none, but some will use little soccer shin pads to stay cool and reduce the bruises/bone chips.
Wheels - depends on the surface. Finding the wheel that balances grip and durability is ideal. The longer a wheel lasts, the less the game costs to play.
Hockey WrapAround or ABS Blades with a Shaft - Both are excellent options.
Gloves - some people like to wear gloves to provide a bit of protection from a stick lift that rides up higher than intended, a deflected shot or just because that’s what they’re used to playing with. Others go without gloves. In a friendly outdoor game, people shouldn’t be intentionally slashing, but a few people may forget where they are and let their competitive nature get the best of them (see the conduct section below) and accidents do happen.
Helmets and Elbow pads - most people forego these outdoors, but no one should give you too hard of a time if you prefer a bit of extra protection. On warm days, these will have you sweating a little more and you may receive a few friendly chirps, but you’ll also be less likely to get hurt.
Everyone is different. I think a group will grow fastest and survive the longest if everyone cares about each others safety and well being.
I recommend a very low, if not completely, no contact style of play. It keeps the tempers cool and the game moving forward in a positive way.
However, some people are looking for a more competitive and intense game. I think there is a place for that, but, pad up and ensure ALL players are on the same page about that. It’s not fair for players to play by two different sets of rules.
It has been my experience that people will stop playing if even one player is playing 'too hard'. So if they can't play within the boundaries of your community after a warning or 2, they should find somewhere else to play. It's a tough call to remove someone from the game, but your crew will be better and attract more like-minded players when action is taken.
Enforce off the rink before the game happens. Communicating is difficult on the rink.
The Right People:
Be fun to play with and help your team win, but also be fun to play against. Think about what frustrates you when playing against other players, aggressive stick and body checking, hooks and chops, unnecessary contact, don't be that player.
Pass more often than you try to beat players 1 on 1. Cover defense if they jump up. Stick to your position most of the time.
The outdoor game isn't supposed to be intense like the NHL playoffs. It should be a time to unwind, destress, get some exercise and have some laughs with the gang.
Take a break when the goalies need it. Embrace a long half-time for people to chill and chat. Pause the game for a second if someone goes down hard.
If you are getting too riled up, take a break or go home. Don't ruin a game because you are in a bad mood. Everyone just wants a stress-free day in the park.
Cast a wide net to catch more players!
At the Court:
Obviously when you are at the facility skating around you can be seen, asked to join or invite others. For when you aren't around, it's a good idea to have a couple posters or stickers up so that others can find you and join the crew. Put them in high visibility areas, by entrances, doors to the rink, in front of seating areas. Add in a social media account, phone number or website etc.
If you play in indoor leagues, or know those who do, you can reach out to players you think would be the right fit for a friendly outdoor game (you probably don’t want to ask the PIM leaders that always get suspended and no one likes to play against).
Social Media / Online:
Say you play at a lacrosse box at 'Maple Park'.
Create a craigslist ad and facebook page called "Maple Park Roller Hockey"
This will help people find you when they search online. You can also refer to the page on your posters or stickers around the facility to make sure people can find you.
Collecting a group of players on Whatsapp works really well for communicating when the next game is as well.
RL Planner's Custom Portal
One of the original members of our group created a website (www.qehockey.net) for players to sign up. Hands down the #1 reason why our community has survived this long. Players would type our park name into google, find our site and be able to learn more, sign up and ask questions.
We aren't using it currently as most games have gone Private due to Covid19.
He created a web app where you can create your very own page to track signups for free!
Visit RL Planner (www.rlplanner.com) to create your signup page now!
Another quality way to organize games and find more players is the Hockey Community app.
Make teams, track and communicate with players easily as well as some much deeper League and Tournament settings.
SHOW UP! Don't give up if you don't get instant results. Keep playing, keep reaching out in new ways and you will make it happen. Post photos or videos on social media of you skating at the spot, mention when you are there. Add in some hashtags #rollerhockey #streethockey #hockey tag your location etc and you can be found!
I like to have a big jug of cold water on hand to keep any forgetful players hydrated so we can play for longer. I found myself hungry at half-time and started to bring snacks to share. Some people like sugary sweet stuff, others are into fresh cut fruit. People will be happy to see you at half time and ready to go for another session.
Other consumables... some hockey players like to drink beer or have a puff, but be responsible.
Eventually you may make some good friends from the crew that usually have a shared bond of hockey and other things.
Inviting the gang out after the game for a pop and pizza is a really satisfying way to end a night. Even ordering to the rink for a quick hang before heading home is a lot of fun and keeps people mingling.
Inspiring outdoor roller hockey communities:
Beach hockey started in parking lots in California, using the elements that were available. The home of the urethane wheel boom provided lots of wheels. Asphalt, tipped over garbage bins and a ton of sun is more than enough to get a game going.
These crews play week in and week out with their buddies to get their hockey fix. No matter what the environment is, hockey is fun. Even more fun with the right crew!
Some crews are private and might be impossible or take some work to get into. Others are wide open and all newcomers are welcome. Never assume you can freely join these games.
Covington Street Hockey League - covingtonstreethockeyleague.com
Group of buddies that are on a journey from drinks in the pub to their own brand new rink and a thriving league.
Santa Monica Beach Hockey - facebook.com/groups/santamonicabeachhockey
They use a ball and are shooting on tipped over metal barrels. Mighty Ducks style.
Pro Beach Hockey Association - instagram.com/probeachhockeyassociation
Big concrete slab on the beach in California. Shooting on full size plastic nets with a ball. Looks like one player per team is assigned to be a goalie (stands in the crease and tries to block shots)
Rose Bowl Hockey - instagram.com/rosebowlhockey
Long-running, very dedicated, parking lot hang. Shooting on custom mini-nets with a Green Biscuit.
SRHL in Australia - the OG - streetrollerhockeyleague.com.au
The last great Viral roller hockey sensation. A beautifully executed expression of hockey in a non-traditional hockey market. Using a Green Biscuit shooting on a specific arrangement of milk crates.
Sydney chapter - srhls.club
We've learned a lot playing, organizing and watching others organize and play over the years. Still a lot more to learn, but hopefully this helps get you caught up.
If you have some tips of your own that work for you please give me a shout! firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for our next venture as we aim to connect some of the dots for people playing in our area.